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Inside Water Grill, Downtown's New Showcase for Seafood

The restaurant soft opens on Wednesday.

Another of Eater's Most Anticipated Openings of 2015 is scheduled to soft open on Wednesday; Water Grill, which has locations in Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, will unveil their mammoth new 11,000-square-foot restaurant at the corner of Sixth Avenue and J Street, where the Gaslamp meets the East Village.

Mark Augarten, Water Grill's VP of Operations, told Eater that the company originally planned on a relatively lean makeover of the site, previously The Palm, but ended up taking on a multi-million dollar, floor-to-ceiling remodel which incuded extending the second floor to span the site's full footprint.

Augarten says the design is similar to their Santa Monica location, but San Diego is outfitted with custom artwork, including a wall covered in oyster shells and an installation of glass buoys strung by nautical hemp and fish hooks, plus new features, including an illuminated keg room that feeds 20 taps at the bar, which also pours 40 varieties of wine by the glass and craft cocktails.

There's room for 350 tourists, conventioneers and, hopefully locals, in the restaurant, which encompasses a sprawling downstairs bar and main dining room plus an upstairs lounge with a second, intimate bar and more tables. If you notice a little more elbow room, that's because the Water Grill's tables are wider to allow for maximum comfort as you take down one of the seafood towers from their oyster bar, stocked with East and West Coast varieties, plus local live sea urchins and other shellfish.

800 gallons of live seafood tanks, visible from the dining room, hold both Maine and California spiny lobsters, king crab and spot prawns, while whole fish stay fresh in fish files. Owner King's Seafood Company has its own seafood distribution arm that feeds each location's seasonal seafood menu, overseen by Water Grill's executive chef Damon Gordon but executed locally by chef Fabrice Poigin.

We're hearing that the company, which also operates Lou & Mickey's and King's Fish House locally, may not open another Water Grill in the San Diego area but the likelihood of bringing another of their concepts south, including casual eatery/seafood market Fish Camp, is good.

Water Grill, Gaslamp

615 J St, San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 717-6992